After training at RADA and making her stage debut in 1940 in her native Glasgow’s Alhambra Theatre, later becoming a member of Wilson Barrett’s company at the Edinburgh Lyceum, Elizabeth Sellars was feted as a West End leading lady and a Hollywood star.
Her first London appearances were at the Lyric Hammersmith in Peter Brook’s staging of Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov, starring Alec Guinness, and Ronald Millar’s The Other Side at the Comedy Theatre in 1946.
Later highlights included replacing Vivien Leigh in Noel Coward’s South Sea Bubble (Lyric Theatre, 1956) and Anna Massey in Muriel Spark’s The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (Wyndham’s Theatre, 1967).
As a member of Peter Hall’s first Stratford ensemble that became the Royal Shakespeare Company, she was seen as Bianca alongside Peter O’Toole and Peggy Ashcroft (The Taming of the Shrew) and Hermione (The Winter’s Tale) in 1960. The following year, she was Gertrude to Ian Bannen’s Hamlet and Queen Elizabeth to Christopher Plummer’s Richard III.
Her versatility extended from Robert Anderson’s controversial Tea and Sympathy (Comedy Theatre, 1957) to Peter Ustinov’s Paris Not So Gay (Oxford Playhouse, 1958) and a Jean Anouilh double-bill directed by Hall at the Arts Theatre in 1959.
On film, she appeared opposite Humphrey Bogart in The Barefoot Contessa, Marlon Brando’s Napoleon in Désirée in 1954, Orson Welles in Three Cases of Murder (1955) and Charlton Heston in 55 Days at
On television, she appeared as the ill-fated wife in Frederick Knott’s Dial M for Murder (1951), socialite Tracy Lord in The Philadelphia Story (1959) and was a familiar face throughout the 1960s.
She was the wife to Richard Todd on stage in Terence Rattigan’s The Winslow Boy on tour in 1971 and, on television, to Laurence Olivier (and mother to Alan Bates) in John Mortimer’s A Voyage Round My Father (1982).
Elizabeth Sellars was born on May 6, 1921, and died on December 30, 2019, aged 98.